Neither nonprofits nor for-profit businesses are islands in their community. You operate alongside one another, often serving the same community members in different capacities. 

From fundraising to expanding offerings, cross-sector partnerships between nonprofits and for-profit businesses come with numerous benefits and should be built into every strategic plan. In this guide, we’ll look at the models for cross-sector partnerships and how these can support both nonprofits and for-profit businesses:

  • Types of Cross-Sector Partnerships
  • Benefits of Cross-Sector Partnerships for Nonprofits
  • Benefits of Cross-Sector Partnerships for Businesses

While partnerships can take a number of different forms depending on the context and organizations involved, at the core of every long-lasting cross-sector partnership is a mutually-beneficial relationship and a shared goal. Let’s take a look!

Types of Cross-Sector Partnerships

Your cross-sector partnership will vary according to your goals and available partners. For instance, a collaboration between a pet rescue and a dog kennel for an adoption event will inevitably look different from a corporation’s matching gifts program. There are four common types of cross-sector partnerships:

  • Joint Project. For activities isolated to a specific place and period of time, such as a fundraising event, a joint partnership can offer a clear path to success. Often, these partnerships involve a relatively small number of partners and are explicitly transactional. For instance, a corporation might fund the costs of a nonprofit event in exchange for brand promotion. 
  • Joint Program. Compared to a joint project, a joint program focuses on making progress toward a goal over a more extended period.
  • Multi-stakeholder Initiative. For complicated, large-scale issues, a multi-stakeholder initiative approach can bring together numerous partners to pool resources and insights for a comprehensive solution.
  • Collective Impact. Much like the multi-stakeholder initiative, collective impact focuses on complex issues that can only be addressed via a range of activities. However, while generally aligned, in this model, partners work independently at the local, national, and international levels.

To determine the type of partnership that would benefit your nonprofit or business the most, consider the areas in which you need additional support, from funding to publicity, alongside the benefits listed below. Then, pitch the corresponding relationship to a partner that can offer that support. 

Benefits of Cross-Sector Partnerships for Nonprofits

As you may have guessed, the benefits of cross-sector nonprofit partnerships stretch far and wide. Here are the most important benefits for nonprofits:

  • Tackle Complex Issues. As mentioned above, a collective impact or multistakeholder cross-sector partnership can give organizations a greater sphere of influence and help make important systemic change on the most complicated issues.
  • Reach a Wider Audience. By teaming up with a for-profit business, a nonprofit can reach new markets for volunteers and donors. Businesses can leverage their database and software to advertise nonprofits to their employees and customers, even organizing team volunteer programs for events, daily operations, or specific services. Alternatively, a business might offer direct funding to help a nonprofit advertise their programs through digital and print media. For example, a corporate event sponsor could fund the marketing costs to help new supporters learn about a nonprofit event.
  • Increase Revenue. In the process of reaching a wider audience, a corporate partner can simultaneously help nonprofits increase their programs and operations funding. Through a corporate social responsibility program, a business might offer volunteer grants, a workplace matching gifts program, or in-kind donations. For instance, a partnership between the pet rescue discussed above and a dog grooming business might include in-kind donations of grooming supplies or space to host an event. 
  • Grow Efficiency and Scalability. Similarly, when a nonprofit joins other organizations toward a common goal, it sets itself up for better ideas, new opportunities, and overall growth.

When picking partners for your nonprofit, choose companies that align with your values and mission. If your corporate partner has a bad public image, associating with them could hurt your nonprofit’s reputation. Not sure where to find the right partner? Ask your board members to connect you with their employers’ corporate social responsibility program or other businesses in their network.

Benefits of Cross-Sector Partnerships for Businesses

While we often focus on the incredible support that cross-sector partnerships offer nonprofit organizations, they can also offer valuable benefits for businesses. In exchange for the resources a company provides a nonprofit, that nonprofit might help their business partners with the following: 

  • Learn About Your Community. Cross-sector partnerships can help businesses understand another side of the communities in which they operate. As a result of this additional perspective, they can better tailor their services, products, and marketing strategies to the right audiences.  
  • Boost Positive PR. For many businesses, a nonprofit partnership can help establish and promote a positive, socially responsible brand identity. When a business associates itself with a nonprofit, it shows customers and employees that it cares about their community, leading to increased engagement and loyalty. For best results, Gingr recommends using software and tools that can track and report on engagement metrics. Moreover, nonprofit partners might offer direct PR support, handing out a business’s branded merchandise or including a business’s name and logo in their publicity materials. 
  • Earn Tax Deductions. When filing taxes, many companies can claim deductions on donated time, money, and resources to a nonprofit. As a result of the partnership, they can save a sizable amount of money. 

For businesses, understanding these benefits can help you determine what you want out of a partnership. On the flip side, for nonprofits, understanding these benefits can help you better tailor your pitch when proposing a cross-sector partnership to a business. 

Partnerships can have a considerable impact on both a nonprofit’s operations and corporate growth. Knowing both sides of how nonprofits and corporations can benefit will allow you to form more successful partnerships that result in positive outcomes for everyone involved. Good luck!

About the Author

Casey Dorman, Sales Manager at Gingr

Hi, I’m Casey! I’m the Sales Manager at Gingr software.  Originally from Indianapolis, I now live in Colorado with my wife and dog, Dexter.  Our hobbies include hiking, skiing, and visiting local breweries.

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